Please: Fiction Inspired by the Smiths

I don’t ever want to go home,
because I don’t have one anymore

I start with this story, because it takes off from one of the very best songs of The Smiths. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” (Helen Walsh): Like many stories in this collection, this song brings up a certain moment in time almost viscerally. But that’s what songs do for us all, right? Here Manchester, November 1989, down by the canal. “…the hamster wheel of sex and drugs”. Nice line. The story?: Punters and the Drive-in (not the one you’re thinking of). Pubescence as seen through the veil of addled sexuality. The end of an “affair”.

What comes through in most of these preambles (each story has one from the author) is how “divisive” The Smiths were. You either loved them or hated them. Rather, worshipped them or loathed them. Worshipers are invariably described as “bored and bony”.

Gina Ochsner uses “Ask” as her inspiration to describe a meeting, a loss, a meeting again, and then an acceptance. The Smith’s song “Ask” must be one of the best songs ever written about ‘shyness’, although with the following subtly incendiary refrain, one can forget that

If it’s not love
Then it’s the bomb
Then it’s the bomb
That will bring us together 

The short is more about chance and aspirations, however.

And now I know how Joan of Arc felt
Now I know how Joan of Arc felt, oh
As the flames rose to her roman nose
And her Walkman started to melt
Oh …

Nic Kelman writes “Bigmouth Strikes Again” as a bit of haves and have-nots, the haves having an epiphany as a sort of guilt trip.

Jeane
I’m not sure what happiness means
But I look in your eyes
And I know
That it isn’t there

In “Jeane” by James Hopkins, one fate is enough. Two fates entwined are impossible. Estrangement is the rule. Full of lovely, lyrical sentences like “This city is full of unlit signs. The alphabet of mortality.” I loved this one, full of regret.

The boy with the thorn in his side
Behind the hatred there lies
A murderous desire for love

John Williams, “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side.” Here again, the Thatcher era looms large over the landscape. The era: “I’d learned that Pete used to read the classics of anarchist literature incessantly, but now he’d become a postman.” Now Pete reads only the Bible. Another of those people, “unworldly, born out of loneliness and awkwardness” but with a “strange fierce intelligence” as with so many of the characters in these stories. This was The Smiths audience.

Rhonda Carrier takes “Girl Afraid” and writes a sweet little story of a girl discovering that writing can be her means of escape. And Graham Rae writes an idiomatic short about the impossibility of life’s replays.

Willy Vlautin writes “Stop Me If You’ve Headr THis One Before” as his “country song story” and it works great as a Morrissey inspired yet only Willy could’ve story. I wouldn’t dream of stopping ‘ya, Willy!

Life tends to come and go
That’s OK
As long as you know

Sometimes the idea for a story is more interesting then the story itself. The execution, in other words. David Gaffney finds a connection in the sensibilities of Morrissey and Noel Coward. And this Coward lyric certainly confirms that.

No one to hurry us
To this dream we found
We’ll gaze at the sky and try to guess
what it’s all about

The story is just plain weird though.

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

“Cemetery Gates” (Mil Millington): A woman simply cannot “assimilate” the idea of being dead. It cannot be imagined. A love story. That takes place in a hospital where two people have met at the end of their days. Both dying. Touching an unique.

Life is very long, when you’re lonely

Many of the stories collected here are only interesting for a line or two as in Jeff Noon’s “The Queen is Dead” .

England was theirs, if only they could find it among the dirt, the puddles, the dust, the damp and the rain, the cracked windows, the grey skies, the litter and the boarded-up shops.

That’s good, but the story itself (as do some others) tend to overreach, go beyond the limitations of talent. Matt Beaumont writes on “I want the One I Can’t Have” with its epic line

And if you ever need self-validation
Just meet me in the alley by the
Railway station

Wow!

There are several writers here that in the midst of their devotion to The Smiths also take a swipe at Duran Duran. Beaumont is one of them with this gratuitous (yet funny, and not wholly underserved) sucker punch:

It’s an everlasting regret that I never got round to seeing The Smiths. Honestly, I kept meaning to, but suddenly and terminally they went and broke up. Unlike Duran Duran. Will they ever have the good grace to fuck off?

Finally (there are more stories than I have included here) there’s this one from Chris Killen

Oh, I don’t know
All I do know is we’re Here and it’s Now
So … stretch out and wait
Stretch out and wait

In “Stretch Out and Wait”,  Killen gives homage to the influence of Morrissey on his writing – Morrissey being one of the most “literate” of rock lyricists. The story itself imagines the end of a relationship and a visit to the grave of Morrissey (still very much alive). As are The Smiths in Morrissey’s reincarnation.

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